The Difference Between UX And UI

UX is the internal experience a user has when interacting with a brand’s products, services, and site, while UI is the visual side of things; the buttons, the icons and the like that allow for the interaction that UX governs.

These two things are commonly interchanged by people, giving birth to the umbrella term of UI/UX design, in spite of their differences, which is understandable given how closely-knit they are. But that distinction is important.

Before differentiating the two, it’s best to know what we’re talking about first.

UI

In simple terms, the UI is anything that user interacts with in order to use any digital service or product. This covers a lot of things, like input devices (screens, keyboards), images (icons), audio, and even lighting.

UI is all about making things accessible, taking into account things like system, and preference. Unsurprisingly popular due to the prevalence of computers and mobile devices, it’s highly unlikely it’ll be going away.

UX

UX, meanwhile, deals with how the users interact with the system, or the brand. It’s quite broad, covering not just the digital side of things, but everything that involves the user interacting with something for a service, or product.

In short, it’s all about the human element, about making things convenient, credible, useful, and, most importantly, valuable.

The differences

  • UX is about the user’s journey; on how to fix a problem and/or solve an inquiry. UI, meanwhile, is how a product or service’s looks and functions. One way of looking at it is to think of UI as the atmosphere of a restaurant and its utensils, which is part of the overall experience, alongside the food itself, the service, and others, which are part of UX.
  • UX is conceptual, it deals with the ideas, while UI deals with what’s tangible and can be interacted with. Part of the reason these two skillsets overlap is because they both deal with interaction design. However, UX uses it as part of strategies, research, and information architecture, while UI uses it for information design, motion design, and branding.
  • UX covers the experiences someone has with a product or service, UI is limited to what they use to interact with that product or service. Self-explanatory, really. UI is part of UX, since interacting with something for a product or service affects how your experience goes. They go together, hand-in-hand, which is why UI/UX design is a thing.